Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mystery surrounds loss of records, art on 9/11

Yahoo news
July 30, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Letters written by Helen Keller. Forty-thousand photographic negatives of John F. Kennedy taken by the president's personal cameraman. Sculptures by Alexander Calder and Auguste Rodin. The 1921 agreement that created the agency that built the World Trade Center.

Besides ending nearly 3,000 lives, destroying planes and reducing buildings to tons of rubble and ash, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks destroyed tens of thousands of records, irreplaceable historical documents and art.
In some cases, the inventories were destroyed along with the records. And the loss of human life at the time overshadowed the search for lost paper. A decade later, agencies and archivists say they're still not completely sure what they lost or found, leaving them without much of a guide to piece together missing history.

"You can't get the picture back, because critical pieces are missing," said Kathleen D. Roe, operations director at the New York State Archives and co-chairwoman of the World Trade Center Documentation Project. "And so you can't know what the whole picture looks like."

The picture starts in the seven-building trade center complex. Hijackers flew jetliners into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, which collapsed onto the rest of the complex, which included three smaller office buildings, a Marriott hotel and U.S. Customs. 7 World Trade Center, a skyscraper just north of the twin towers, collapsed that afternoon.

The trade center was home to more than 430 companies, including law firms, manufacturers and financial institutions. Twenty-one libraries were destroyed, including that of The Journal of Commerce. Dozens of federal, state and local government agencies were at the site, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Central Intelligence Agency had a clandestine office on the 25th floor of 7 World Trade Center, which also housed the city's emergency command center and an outpost of the U.S. Secret Service.
The first tangible losses beyond death were obvious, and massive.

The Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage, where more than 650 employees were killed, owned a trove of drawings and sculptures that included a cast of Rodin's "The Thinker" — which resurfaced briefly after the attacks before mysteriously disappearing again. Fragments of other sculptures also were recovered.

The Ferdinand Gallozzi Library of U.S. Customs Service in 6 World Trade Center held a collection of documents related to U.S. trade dating back to at least the 1840s. And in the same building were nearly 900,000 objects excavated from the Five Points neighborhood of lower Manhattan, a famous working-class slum of the 19th century.

The Kennedy negatives, by photographer Jacques Lowe, had been stowed away in a fireproof vault at 5 World Trade Center, a nine-story building in the complex. Helen Keller International, whose offices burned up when its building, a block from the trade center, was struck by debris, lost a modest archive. Only two books and a bust of Keller survived.

Classified and confidential documents also disappeared at the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into it on 9/11.
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